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Juvenile Systems: Punitive or Rehabilitative?

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Myths and Misconceptions About Juvenile Crime and Policies

Juveniles and You (JAY) is a not-for-profit organization that operates the following programs in Florida:
A drug-diversion program for juveniles who have been arrested for entry-level drug use but will be treated within the community.
A status offender program for juveniles whose parents can no longer control their children's behavior.
A violent offender program for juveniles who have been violent in school or with peers.
A reentry program for serious juvenile offenders who have been incarcerated for more than a year.
The mission of the organization is to rehabilitate juveniles and to send them back to the community as responsible and productive citizens. JAY plans to launch a group home this month in Coconut Grove, Miami-Dade County. This group home would accept long-term juvenile referrals from courts. However, JAY is facing media and community opposition to its group home project because Jeff Baker, a 14-year-old juvenile who lived in a program facility operated by JAY in Dania, killed his girlfriend's parents.

The Baker originally met the 16-year-old girl at an outreach camp sponsored by a local church. In order to spend more time with the girl, he ran away from the vocational program he was attending at the local high school, stole a car at gunpoint and drove to the girl's house. When the girl's parents refused to let him see the girl, Baker argued with them. In a fit of rage, he shot them to death. He held the girl hostage at her house for two days before being persuaded by the police and officials of JAY to surrender.

The community is outraged and wants Baker to be tried as an adult and treated harshly. A leading public official seeks the resignation of the director of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and demands a review of not-for-profit organizations like JAY. The public official cites the growth of juvenile superpredators across the country and urges the police to "use all necessary force to bring these juvenile superpredators to justice." A news station runs a special series, "Kids that Kill" and highlights the dangers to the community from "evil children." Another news station broadcasts interviews with hysterical residents protesting JAY's plans to open a group home for juveniles in their neighborhood. The city holds town hall meetings to discuss the community's concerns.

The director of JAY, however, defends Baker and reveals that the youth was arrested a year ago for being out after curfew in Dania. As a result of this incident, Baker was taken into custody and detained in an adult cell, where he was sexually assaulted. He was shifted to a juvenile detention center only after the incident was discovered. Then he was released into the care of the JAY program. The director believes that the foundation's programs can rehabilitate Baker and return him to the community to live a productive life.

Meanwhile, the members of a local church are also demanding rehabilitation for Baler and have set up a 24-hour vigil outside the governor's office. Church leaders claim that the criminal justice system treats violent juveniles unfairly. They claim that the prejudice against this juvenile drove him to commit a violent act. They view Baker as a young person who was first treated unfairly by the system and now was being victimized again by an unfair juvenile justice system.

Answer the following:
Is our juvenile system punitive or rehabilitative in nature? Why? When does a juvenile cross the line and deserve punitive justice and not rehabilitation? Is there a way to blend punishment and rehabilitation in Baker's case?
Does our juvenile system decide cases on their individual merits or does any discrimination exist? Is the juvenile justice system across different states consistent in dealing with juvenile crimes?

What if Baker is sent back to JAY? Will he ever be able to be part of the community as a responsible citizen? Will the community accept the youth? Should JAY be allowed to open its group home facility in the residential neighborhood? What are the chances of reoccurrence of a similar case of juvenile violence?

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Is our juvenile system punitive or rehabilitative in nature? Why? When does a juvenile cross the line and deserve punitive justice and not rehabilitation? Is there a way to blend punishment and rehabilitation in Baker's case?

Juvenile justice is placated upon a parens patriae doctrine that is dedicated to rehabilitating the juvenile, but in special circumstances such as repeat violent offenders, heinous crimes that shock the conscience, and in cases where the offender is a certain age such as 15 or older and commits murder, the juvenile will most likely receive punitive justice in ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses punitive and rehabilitative juvenile systems.